Why setting goals is the most important thing you can do to make sure you don’t live a life on autopilot

According to Newton’s first law of motion, a body in motion stays in motion, while a body at rest stays at rest. I believe this principle applies to how we live our whole lives. 

We can spend our whole lives going through the motions, without much thought or intention. In yoga philosophy this idea is referred to as “herd instinct.” Just do what others are doing because others are doing it. Don’t question it. Don’t discern. Go to college, get married, have kids, and so on and so forth simply because it is expected and because it is what we see around us. Even setting aside the heteronormative nature of this life plan, it’s easy to see how following suit for its own sake can lead to a life of misery, and worse.  

True story: in 2015, 450 sheep leapt to their deaths. Why? One sheep fell off a mountain cliff. 449 followed suit, literally just following the first sheep’s footsteps. How tragic is that? Talk about herd instinct.

If we want to live more intentional lives, we must think and make decisions at a higher level. This is what I believe goal setting is ultimately about.

We need to have an idea of where we want to go in life. This could be measured in thousands of different ways. Some common examples of goals I work with clients on in my one-on-one coaching practice include wanting to:

  • Build a business to leave a legacy, make impact, fulfill a passion, and/or make money;
  • Have more fulfilling relationships with loved ones;
  • Feel more at peace with themselves;
  • Navigate challenging life transitions; 
  • Discern life purpose;
  • Become more integrated in body and mind;
  • Plan for retirement;
  • Change careers;
  • Create a career plan for themselves;
  • Grow friendships and a sense of community;
  • Recover from traumatic experiences;
  • Increase leadership in an organization;
  • Be their healthiest and fittest;
  • Make measurable professional progress.

As you can see, some of these goals are easily measurable, and others seem pretty intangible. But they are all goals and represent just a sampling of worthy aspirations towards meaningful and enriching life experiences.

Getting out of autopilot and into an intentional way of living requires a few things.

First, we set goals. As a coach of mine loves to say, “complacency lives in the land of no goals.” We don’t set goals as a measuring stick of our self-worth, however. We set them as simply directional guides towards where we want to go in any given area of our lives. We must start with the supposition that we are worthy and lovable just as we are. And, we can use our goals as guideposts to a more meaningful life.

Second, we clarify how we will measure our goals. In other words, how will we know if we’re there? With some metrics – like money or job titles or weight – this will be clear. But with many, indeed most of the goals I help clients with, it’s important to decide up front how we’ll know if we’re there. We’ll know we feel more present with our families, for example, if we’re not checking our email while having dinner. We’ll know if we’re managing our stress better, for instance, if we sleep better and feel more relaxed. It’s really helpful to decide in advance how we will know if we’re moving in the right direction towards our goals.

Third, we troubleshoot along the way, without giving up on ourselves. It’s almost always true that our progress, or lack thereof, is not exactly how we imagined it would be. Thus, we want to be ready for the unanticipated obstacles that can arise in our journey. We want to know how to anchor ourselves back to our motivating reasons for setting the goals in the first place. 

And finally, we celebrate progress. Not perfection, but progress. When we pause to reflect on gains we’ve made, whether we’ve become veritable goal crushers or not, we reinforce our commitment to living with intention in a way that is compassionate and kind.

So tell me, what are you working on right now?

And if you want to know if coaching can support you on your path, click here to schedule a complimentary clarity call with me today.